ABC Canteen, Fairfax

(For the Dec 4, 2015 Review, click here.)

Having had such wonderful tamales on my previous visit to ABC Canteen, I made a return visit for lunch to explore in more depth. At the very top of their menu is the Fish & Chips ($7.95), three large strips of cod, with a sturdy, tempura-like batter having a pale, golden hue that’s optimal for flavor, texture, insulation, and handling – it’s easy to pick these cod strips up and dunk them in the house-made tartar sauce without loss of integrity. They also came with some thin-cut, fairly typical frozen french fries that I thought had one shake of salt too many – I would urge less exuberance with the salt-shaker, and allow the diners to self-adjust as needed. If you like fish & chips, you’ll enjoy this fish and tartar sauce, while being left wishing for more distinctive chips. A Fountain Soft Drink ($1.85) allows for unlimited refills (depending on the time of day, and my current need for caffeine and/or sugar, I auto-adjust the ratio of Diet Coke to regular Coke – almost always, I stick with Diet Coke, but on this day I cheated by adding a couple ounces of high-test for a cheap, temporary fructose buzz.

The Tamales ($2.50) are still chicken or pork, and I got four of them to go – three chicken, and one pork – and I’m not sure why I was surprised to open the container only to be stared down by four unadorned corn husks. I mean, what else was I expecting? The corn husks being the perfect protector, I nibbled my way through this order, making it last over the course of two days. Without any adornment, the tamales might be (might be) a touch dry, so if you get them to go, make sure to get a few containers of sauce to add – I did this, and was glad I did. The tamales remain terrific, and are reason enough to frequent ABC Canteen.

On the following day, I got a text message from my young dining companion asking me if I wanted to have lunch. I knew just the place, not far at all from Woodson High School and his home turf: ABC Canteen – straight down Pickett Road, left on Lee Highway, and you’re there. On my first two visits, I had flown over with drones on reconnaissance missions; now, I had the infantry and strong air support backing me, and the two of us carpet-bombed the menu. I started with another Diet Coke ($1.80), because you need to cut corners where they’re expendable, and I certainly don’t need empty calories from soft drinks.

Chicken Wings ($10.50 for 12): Get them. We had a choice of BBQ or Buffalo sauce (Buffalo), and blue cheese or ranch dipping sauce (ranch) – Matt adores chicken wings (he’s 18), and we both really liked these – it hurt for me to show restraint, but I saw how much he was enjoying them, so I let him have the lion’s share. There seemed to be an even mix of wings and drumettes in the order – I suspect if you prefer one over the other, all you’d need to do is ask, but I don’t know this for a fact.

Both of us got a Steak Mojo Sandwich ($7.50), a surprisingly elegant sub, smaller than a foot-long, featuring much higher-quality steak than is the norm (this was actual steak; not Steak-Umms), a light touch of Monterey Jack, Sriracha mayo (faux-Mojo sauce), lettuce, and tomato, all neatly served on a relatively short, flat, toasted sub roll – this was not a sloppy sandwich at all, and wasn’t the type of gooey, saucy steak-and-cheese that leaves you feeling guilty for having downed.

Perhaps the highlight of the meal was a justifiably vaunted, highly touted order of Hush Puppies ($2.50), which were delicious for reasons I wasn’t expecting: the flour inside was pale, and there were no kernels of corn; the batter and the fry-job were both perfect, and the texture, consistency, and halbtrocken palate presence were absolutely appropriate, and these were a perfect accompaniment to our sandwiches.

Note that there are combos on the menu which include soft drinks – at the time of this writing, I have no idea whether or not I ordered them or got the discounts (I just now noticed, and don’t much care, but thought it was worth a mention).

ABC Canteen is strongly maintained in Italic and remains recommended – it’s an independent restaurant worth your time and effort: The food here is good, the restaurant is squeaky clean, and the service is extremely friendly and thoughtful. I again want to stress that this is very, very close to the intersection of I-66 and Nutley Street.

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